Satyananda Yoga articles

Yoga, mantra and the power of prayer (part 2)

In the first part of this article, we touched on the practice of Mahamrityunjaya mantra, most usually chanted for the relief of suffering.

Om trayem bakum yaja mahe, Sugandhim pushti vardenam

Uruva rukamiva bandhanat, Mrityor mukshiya mamritat.

There are three principles at work in the Universe – creation, maintenance (continuation) and destruction. In order for harmony to prevail, all three are necessary and work equally together; without destruction, there is no space for creation, without creation there is no need of maintenance … we only need to look at the garden through the seasons to observe the verity of this.

So Mahamrityunjaya mantra is an invocation to the principle of destruction in the Universe, in which we ask that our attachments in this life be broken (destroyed) so that, at the point of death, we may move over ‘as easily as the cucumber is separated from the vine’. We may reasonably ask,

‘Do I want to break my attachments in this life?’

‘Why would I want to do that?’

‘What are these attachments anyway?’

So we start to explore the question of attachments. What are these attachments? To my home? To my family? To my work and the status it affords me? Yes, all of these and probably more! We gradually realise that it’s OK to have these things, these relationships and to enjoy them in the present moment; this is the very fabric of mundane life. The problem started when we became attached to them, because then we began to fear their loss, either consciously or unconsciously. Will this person leave me? Will that item be ruined or stolen? Most of us are strongly attached to the continuation of our life in this body, of the personality, of this person as we know ourselves – that is, we fear death. When we look a little more deeply, we begin to recognise that it’s our attachments that cause us to suffer; that the suffering arises from our mental patterns surrounding the things we own, the relationships we enjoy, not from the having of them per se. And thus we suffer throughout our lives.

And do we need to break these attachments now? Yes, for two reasons. First because, as Swami Satyananda says, ‘Joy is your heritage, not suffering’ – we can learn to live without suffering. And secondly, because we know that life is fragile – as fragile as a drop of water on a leaf – and so we need to be prepared to die at any time ‘as easily as the cucumber separates from the vine’. So when we chant Mahamrityunjaya mantra, we are invoking assistance for ourselves in overcoming or breaking our own attachments.

And that is not all. We can, and often do, chant this same mantra for the relief of others’ suffering. Here it is particularly important to understand the difference between ‘relief of suffering’, ‘healing’ and ‘cure’. When we chant for another person, it is not possible to change the destiny of that person – if they are destined to have an illness and/or to die soon, then so they will. Some people would call this the Divine Order. So we cannot expect that they will be cured of the illness. However, when we chant or pray for such a person, we are asking that their attachments be broken, their fear be lessened, so that their suffering is relieved. And if this comes about, then truly the person experiences healing, whether in this body or not. In his remarkable books ‘Who Dies?’ and ‘Healing into Life and Death’, Stephen Levine explores eloquently such subjects as pain, fear and healing – well worth a read. (both books available for loan from SYC library)

Chanting Mahamrityunjaya mantra for other people is a great tool for us too. It can relieve the feelings of impotence we experience, typically when a friend is seriously ill, or when a marriage breaks down & children are involved. Our power to help in this type of situation varies enormously – sometimes we can be a pillar of support to the family, but often we don’t have the time or the skills, so we send cards, give comfort and worry about them … all perfectly normal & very human responses. But frequently we feel we are not doing enough. One of the most powerful ways in which we can serve the person &/or the family is to chant for them daily. How? Sit quietly, centre yourself, focus on the person or situation with all the aligned energy you can bring to the moment, then chant – maybe 9, 12 18 or 27 rounds – it takes only 5-10 minutes. We emerge from the practice feeling more positive, less burdened and more able to bring light to those around us.

Similarly, when through the media we learn of wars, famine and natural disasters, we can all too easily succumb to despondency about the state of the world and man’s inhumanity to man. Sometimes we channel that energy into social action or fiscal support but, more often, we just ruminate on it and feel gloomy. Once again, chanting Mahamrityunjaya mantra for the situation and for the people there, can transform that negative energy into something positive.

Finally, this mantra is used as a protection mantra too. In any situation where you feel vulnerable, nervous or at risk, chanting the mantra (aloud or silently) will change your vibration. How does it work? Probably because fear evaporates, we walk taller, we change our vibration to a strong, positive one - and so we are not perceived as easy prey.

Taken from articles by Swami Satyaprakash, first published in SYC Birmingham newsletters, Spring & Autumn 2004

You are invited to join a monthly practice of Mahamrityunjaya mantra at your local Satyananda Yoga Centre – when we chant for the relief of suffering. In our parent ashram in India and in Satyananda Yoga ashrams & centres all over the world, this tradition is maintained on a weekly or monthly basis.

Each session begins with the remembrance of particular individuals who are known to be sick &/or suffering – these names are collected both from those people attending the practice and from others who wish for their friends, relatives & acquaintances to be mentioned. (Anyone is welcome add to the list by phone or email.)

Then we chant the Mahamrityunjaya mantra 108 times together and, at the end, share a few minutes silence. It takes about 40 minutes and then we take tea (optional). Kirtan may follow.


‘Be fearless;
sw_satyanandacowards never acquire the power of life’